The Old Truths Must Be Preserved!

My brother Art & my sister-in-law Diane recently got back from a trip to western Germany, where, among other things, they were digging into the Olbert family tree (Diane’s been doing a lot of research into family history over the last few years).

And it looks like I’ve been misrepresenting my background all these years!

I’m not half-French and half-German as a result of having roots in Alsace-Lorraine, currently part of France, but which has been seized back-and-forth for centuries. Instead, I’m just mostly German. Barring any cross-border gene swapping*. Because the Olbert family clearly traces its roots back to a particular community in Baden-Württemberg, which was not swapped between the two nations.

This totally flies in the face of family lore and tradition. My father used to love to tell the story about how our Alsace-Lorrainian ancestors would bury their French money in the basement when the Germans seized the territory, only to dig it up years later — and bury the German currency — when the French seized it back. I, personally, also used to use this mixed ancestry to justify being alternatively coldly analytical and hot-blooded; it was those stereotypical German and Gallic influences at work.

I guess I’m going to have to come up with a different shtick.

Part of the reason my father’s stories made sense to me was because my Olbert ancestors emigrated to the US shortly after the Franco-Prussian War, as a result of which Germany took Alsace-Lorraine from France. Wars, and their aftermaths, are great motivators of migration.

But Diane tells me Baden-Württemberg allied itself with France during the Franco-Prussian War (Germany was not yet a unified nation, which is why it’s not called the Franco-German War). So even that supporting evidence of Alsace-Lorrainian heritage goes away.

Or maybe not. Because, fortunately, in the modern era, it doesn’t matter whether something is really true. It is true simply if you assert it to be the truth.

So perhaps I’ll just keep telling the truth about my ancestry as I was first taught it. Thank god I live in an era when one can reject objective reality!

Although I think you’re supposed to attach the phrase “Believe me” to the end of your statements when you go that route…


* of which there was apparently quite a bit, according to Art

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